Mar 31

All About Evan and Rachel with the Liebster Award!

Thanks so much to Alison and Kenny from A & K Wanderlusts for nominating our blog for the Liebster Award! :) This has been a great opportunity to get to know other bloggers in the community, and it was really fun answering the questions you gave us! At the end of this post we’ll be tagging some of YOU and give you all new questions to answer. Let’s get started!

Award

Let’s get to the Questions!

1. If you could travel back in time to one particular moment, what would it be?
E: I’d like to see the asteroid responsible for slamming into the Earth and eventually creating the moon.
R: MLK Jr’s famous speech on the steps of the Abe Lincoln memorial.

2. If you had to fast forward to a point in your future for 10 minutes, what would it be?
E: I’d like to see the last ten minutes of my life.
R: Probably the birth of my first child! Can’t wait.

3. You find $1,000 lying on the street. What’s the first thing you would do?
E: Look around.
R: If it was that much, I’d look around and try to find the owner.

4. Beach or mountains? (And you can’t say a mountain overlooking a beach, which is my go-to answer for this one).
E: Mountains!
R: Definitely mountains!

5. What is one trait that you are constantly improving upon?
E: Being more social.
R: Talking less, listening more.

6. What food could you simply not live without?
E: Burritos. Or, more specifically, refried beans.
R: There’s honestly nothing I love THAT much, because I like pretty much everything. But if I had to choose–bread.

7. What is your most embarrassing moment? (Well, the most embarrassing moment you’re willing to share).
E: The first time I tried to kiss my wife, I missed.
R: Most recently, I was catching up with one of my best friends from high school and said something about how I’m surprised neither of us had kids yet, when she actually had a kid several years ago!! Yikes. She was gracious about it thankfully. I’ve been away for quite a while.

8. How would your best friend describe you in one sentence?
E: “I don’t know.” ..really, I asked.
R: “You’re super caring.”

9. What destination is on the top of your travel list?
E: The MOON. Here on Earth, though, I want to travel the middle east.
R: Middle East and North Africa hands down. I want Evan to experience and fall in love with Morocco the way I did.

10. When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
E: I saw a picture of a Sloth in a space suit.
R: An inappropriate but hilarious card played in Cards against humanity.

11. Describe your perfect day.
E: It’s Spring time and I’m in the mountains of North Carolina with my wife.
R: Going for a drive with Evan in the mountains of NC when the leaves are changing. Hanging out at our favorite coffee shop where we first met, maybe going to hear some bluegrass in the park, and eating subs from Jimmy Johns while laying in the grass.

Evan and Rachel

11 Facts About Evan and Rachel

Evan

1. I used to have really long hair.

2. I was born in Germany.

3. Both my parents were in the military.

4. I have a twin brother.

5. We look nothing alike.

6. My favorite beer is Sam Adams.

7. I tend to be a mega-nerd.

8. I graduated college about 8 years after I started.

9. If my wife would let me, I’d probably only wear white shirts.
10. I met Rachel when I was 17 at a coffee shop we both love.
11. I try to drink tea, but damn it, I’m a coffee man.

Rachel

1. I’m an aquarius.
2. I was a cheerleader and also somehow a band nerd and theatre kid at the same time.
3. I started studying French when I was in 1st grade.
4. donc, je veux parler francais avec toi! ^o^ je dois pratiquer…
5. I studied Arabic in university.
6. I studied abroad in Morocco in 2008, where I continued my studies in French and Arabic.
7. I met Evan when I was 15, but we didn’t start dating until I was 22.
8. We had our first kiss while we were camping in the mountains of NC!
9. I have a strange (really weird) fascination with meat slicers. The kind they have in legit delis.
10. My parents are still together! And they’re awesome. (It’s sad that this is an interesting fact)
11. Both my parents were in the military, and my older brother was born in Germany.

Who is up next?

Pamela from Pam in South Korea

Elisha from Epik Wandering Seoul

Elizabeth from Moving West to the East

Alex from Ninja Teacher

Meagan from Life Outside of Texas

Brian from Wandering On

Nathan from Open Road Before Me

Malachi from Living in Korea for Expats

Amanda and Derik from Living in Another Language

Kara from Kara Flaherty

Danielle from Seoul Tapper

Here are the rules!
1. Link back to the person who nominated you.
2. Answer the 11 questions given by the person who nominated you.
3. Post 11 random facts about yourself.
4. Pick 11 nominees with under 200 followers to answer your 11 questions.
5. Can’t nominate the person who nominated you!
6. Tell your 11 nominees you have nominated them.

Here are your questions!
1. Can you solve a rubix cube?
2. What is your biggest fear?
3. What accomplishment are you most proud of?
4. What is your favorite holiday and why?
5. What food do you miss the most when you’re traveling/living abroad?
6. What’s your favorite condiment?
7. Do you have a go-to joke to share with us? :)
8. What was your first screen name?
9. What was your first concert?
10. Have you ever flown first class?
11. Where does your name come from?/What does it mean?

Go for it!

Mar 28

How to Make Your EPIK Job Awesome #5 – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!

This is part 5 in a 5 part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome! This final tip is an all-encompassing one: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Shake things off. Insert other cliche but true statements here. ;)

This is NOT America (Insert your home country here)

Newsflash! South Korean culture is VERY DIFFERENT from our culture. It’s not like going from America to Europe where we place importance in similar things. A good mantra to have during your time here is “it’s not wrong, just different.” It’s beneficial to remind yourself of that when you hear yourself say out loud “well in AMERICAN schools we do it this way”. Most of us are temporary visitors in this country, and you should see yourself as an ambassador of your home country. We have a lot to learn from each other! So instead of painting all of our differences in a negative light, try to be intentional about seeking out the similarities between us and reminders that we really all want the same things in life. :)

It’s okay to have bad days

Expat life is hard! Living in another culture and not being able to use your mother tongue to do simple things like order food, send a letter, or pay bills can be really mentally taxing. Some days just feels like nothing can go right, and it’s okay to have bad days and vent to your fellow waygook friends about a frustrating situation at school or a drunk ajosshi. All of that is normal. But there is a line that needs to be drawn, and it goes back to our mantra “It’s not wrong, just different.” Korean people are not bad people. Far from it. But if you focus all of your negative energy on the daily frustrations with the culture, it starts to get really personal, and eventually you may find yourself having hostility toward Koreans in general. This is EXTREMELY toxic. Groups of foreigners who believe that Koreans are bad people tend to hang out together, so I encourage you to run away if you find yourself hanging out with someone like that. haha. I’ve often been accused of “seeing Korea in soft focus” by these people, meaning that I just live in a haze and don’t see all of the “negative” things going on around me. It’s not true at all, and if you follow our channel it’s obvious that we love Korea but are also critical of it, as we are of any society. I have bad days too when I want to hide away and pretend like I’m back in the US. But don’t let that go too far. Nurse a healthy mantra like “it’s not wrong, it’s different” in your mind and you’ll be fine. :)

We’re really lucky to be here

At the end of the day, it’s all about perspective. I often think about what I would be doing right now in America if I hadn’t come to Korea, and let me tell you, it’s not pretty. Evan has more tangible skills that pay well in the US ( he used to work in IT) but the things I would want to do in the US pay little to nothing in Washington DC, where I’d also be paying 1000/month for rent! We are really, really lucky to be here in Korea. We both have great, rewarding, stable jobs that pay well. We don’t pay rent. We live in a fantastic, beautiful, postcard worthy city. We are able to send about $1500 home a month to pay on our loans, and we’ll be debt free in a few years. Life couldn’t be better, really. All of us here are really lucky. A little perspective can go a long way in making life abroad wonderful.

To read more about how to make your EPIK job awesome!
Part 1: Learn and Use Korean Manners
Part 2: Prepare for the Unexpected
Part 3: Make your Office Comfortable
Part 4: Participate in Your School



Mar 27

How to Make Your EPIK Job Awesome #4 – Participate in Your School

This is the 4th part in a 5 part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome! Being an active participant in your school and having a good relationship with your coteacher(s) is so important. I really can’t stress this enough!

Make an Effort

This one may be the most controversial, because obviously people are different with different personalities, and what I say here is not a rubric for having a great relationship with your coworkers. It is always difficult building a good rapport with someone from a different culture in a work environment. We all have different expectations about what we’re doing here. It may be even more difficult depending on your age or gender and how that effects social situations in Korea. But no matter what, you should make an effort with your coworkers. A big effort. Eat lunch with your coworkers every day, find common interests, learn and study Korean, and let them know you are, hang out with them after lunch if possible, and bring in pastries or fruit into the office every once in awhile!

Take Part in School Activities

Another way to fit in at your Korean school is to participate in all of the school events! There are so many opportunities to do this–from Sports Days and field trips, to judging contests and cheering on your students at competitions! Every school is different but I know these events are all pretty similar at public schools. A regular thing that would be good to get involved in is Weekly Volleyball. Most public schools have a weekly “staff bonding” time where they play volleyball in the gym together. While it can be embarrassing for some (ME! haha) if you’re good at volleyball you’ll be the PE teacher’s new best friend. Local schools also compete, so be prepared to travel to other schools for games as well. Even though I don’t play, when I’m not busy I make it a point to go to some matches and cheer on my coworkers! They always have good snacks there if you need another incentive to go! ;)

Take Initiative

In your first year, you won’t know a lot of what is going on at the school. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and ask how you can get involved! When you hear that students are going on field trips, ask if you can go along! (My school has always said no to this, but I keep hoping!) If you have an idea for an after school club, run it by your coteacher! It never hurts to ask, and asking questions like these makes you seem eager and enthusiastic about your job. To give some personal examples, my first year I joined our after school ukulele club. I had just started learning myself, so I joined with some 3rd grade students once a week. I learned and practiced my Korean, and had some small group bonding with my students–it was a blast! My newest hobby is playing board games after a board game cafe opened in my town. I asked if I could have a board game club this year and it was approved! Now I will be in charge of 2 different classes and it counts as my minimum teaching hours. I’m super excited about that. Be yourself and try to incorporate things that interest you into your school life. If you are excited about something your students and coteacher will be too.

I think above anything else, your relationship with your coworkers is the thing that makes or breaks your experience as an EPIK teacher in Korea. Don’t separate yourself even more than you already will be by not going to meetings, social outings, dinners, etc. Be approachable, flexible, and be willing to help.

If you want to hear more, watch the video! Also feel free to ask any questions by leaving a comment here.



Mar 26

How to Make Your EPIK Job AWESOME #3 – Make Your Office Comfortable

This is the 3rd post in a 5 part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome. This tip is more straightforward but surprisingly causes new teachers a lot of grief, especially if its unexpected. You will be spending a lot of time during the hottest and coldest days of the year sitting at your desk. Here are some tips to help make your office more comfortable!

Temperature Control

There are a few things about working at a public school that make it uncomfortable. Temperature control and hygiene are the two biggest concerns. There is no temperature control in most of the country, but public schools are generally really really hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. It varies by school but if you do have a heating and cooling unit, and if you can control it, more often than not they will tell you not to use it that much, or only using it during specific hours. In my current office there is no installed heating unit, so we have a small electric heater that barely works. You just kind of have to accept this and make the best of it. Don’t be afraid to get comfortable, especially during the deskwarming days of winter. Bring blankets to leave at your desk, buy handwarmers, buy warm slippers for your inside shoes, and you could even buy a heated seating pad! We go over how to stay warm in detail in our How to Survive Korean Winter video! In the summer I have a desk fan that you plug into the USB on my computer and it honestly saves my life.

Hygiene

You may also be surprised to find no soap or toilet paper on your first trip to the bathroom, that is after you notice the squat toilets. I did make a separate video about how to use the squat toilets, but a general tip for life here is to always have tissue on you. I personally always have dry tissues and wet tissues, and both always come in handy! In my office we have toilet paper delivered by the janitor every day, so we have lots of it stockpiled in a cabinet that we all share. We also all contributed money for hand soap, but this is just something you have to wait and see how it’s done at your school. I’d bring some on your first day just to be safe. I also like to keep hand sanitizer in my bag and in my desk–kids carry a lot of germs and you’re going to spend your 1st year getting sick a lot! It’s best to wash and sanitize your hands often.

Every School is Different

Keep in mind that every EPIK teacher’s experience is unique, and every school is run differently. While most public schools have squat toilets, and no soap or toilet paper, others I’ve heard have western toilets for teachers and always have soap and toilet paper provided. Your school also may be very generous with the heating and air conditioning, and if so you’re super lucky! My only purpose here is to share my experiences and the general consensus about public schoools. There are always exceptions. If you want to hear more, watch the video!



Mar 25

How to Make Your EPIK Job AWESOME #2 – Be Prepared for the Unexpected

This is the 2nd post in a 5-part series about how to make your EPIK job awesome! This one is really important. Doing your research into the culture before you come is vital to managing your expectations about the life you will have at your school. In general, but especially in regards to your job, it is important to be prepared for the unexpected. While in most situations there’s nothing you can do but accept it, there are a few tips I have to share that may alleviate some of the stress caused by last minute situations that can occur in your school.

Don’t take it personally

As you will soon find out, if you haven’t already, things are often done at the last minute in Korea. The workplace is no exception. Expect to be notified of an unplanned class, or a staff dinner, or of a “super important document” that needs to turned in, at what seems like the very last possible minute. My first piece of advice is to not take any of it personally. They are not singling you out, or not telling you on purpose. Either your coteacher just found out 2 seconds before telling you, or he/she is simply busy and forgot. Both are likely and shouldn’t be taken to heart.

Be proactive

My second piece of advice is to be proactive. There are some variables you can control here. Just in case you have a surprise class one day, make a folder on your desktop with ready-to-go lessons for each grade you teach. It can be a review lesson, or a themed lesson, a slang class, or just as simple as a downloaded movie ready to go! That way when your coteacher does drop the bomb on you that you have class in 2 minutes (…or 2 minutes ago!) then you can already have something prepared without stressing out too much about it! These lessons will also come in handy for the “in between classes,” as I like to call them. The period after final exams but before the new school year is the most likely time that your schedule will change at the drop of a hat. Some schools will make you continue to teach the book even after exams, but if not, I’d go for one of these lessons!

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